I was called a traitor for believing in Irish sovereignty.

I am seldom dumbfounded from what I hear online. There is very little that will genuinely provoke a reaction leaving me astonished. I’ve heard it all before, and ignorant statements lose their edge very quickly. Perhaps it’s a consequence of growing up in the digital age, or simply that, as a result of our divisive society, we have become somewhat numb to statements seeking to maximise the shock factor. A few days ago, however, while scrolling through Twitter, I came across what can only be described as idiotic incompetence. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

The bewildering tweet came from Rénua candidate for South Dublin County Council, Howard Hughes. He had taken a break from complaining about Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil to reply to an RTÉ News report. The report centred on the 1916 commemorations that took place in Dublin in which Captain Paul Conlon recited the proclamation of Poblacht na hÉireann outside the GPO just as Pádraig Pearse did over 100 years ago. Mr Hughes saw what was a celebration of the birth of our nation and said;

“I can remember a Teachta Dáila ever read this out? Would it be treason against the crown?”

You may be wondering what Mr Hughes is getting at there, so let me fill you in. You see, this isn’t my first interaction with Mr Hughes. On at least two previous occasions Howard Hughes has claimed that Ireland is not a sovereign nation and that it remains a dominion of the UK to this day. Such a claim seems fanciful and when I first heard it, I was certain that he attempting to garner some attention by trolling. Alas, he was not.

I have asked for proof of his claim that our sovereignty is a lie and he often returns with excerpts from the Constitution of the Irish Free State. Under this Constitution, Ireland is part of the UK, and so he is right, however, that Constitution was repealed in 1937 with the establishment and enforcement of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Article 48 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states just that, saying;

“The Constitution of Saorstát Éireann in force immediately prior to the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution and the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act, 1922, in so far as that Act or any provision thereof is then in force shall be and are hereby repealed as on and from that date”.

A friend of mine, who is currently studying law in UCC, saw the commotion and stepped in to try and give Mr Hughes the history lesson I had attempted to give previously. He first linked to The Republic of Ireland Act, 1948, which as the title suggests established our sovereign state as a Republic after Mr Hughes had also denied that Ireland was a Republic. He then linked to a piece of UK legislation called the Ireland Act 1949I. Under this act;

“it is hereby recognised and declared that the part of Ireland, heretofore known as Eire ceased, as from the eighteenth day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-nine, to be part of His Majesty’s dominions”.

Unfortunately, this legal evidence wasn’t sufficient for Mr Hughes, who stood his ground by citing a law that isn’t in force in Ireland and Article 49.3 of Bunreacht na hÉirean which has no impact on our status as a nation. To say that his claim rests on shaky ground would be an understatement.

Recognising that this was going nowhere I asked Mr Hughes if he believed the entire country had been hoodwinked into believing that Ireland was a sovereign state. What followed is the most perplexing and incomprehensible thing I have ever had the misfortune to read;

“Yes, the entire country has been hoodwinked. It embarrassing for b cause you’re part of it, defending the lie #traitor”. 

And there it is. If you ever listened in history class and believe that Ireland is free from colonial rule and has the ability to govern itself, not only have you been hoodwinked, you are also a traitor. The ignorance of basic facts is hurtful in so many ways. The men and women who fought and died for Irish freedom are spinning in their graves. Sitting here, days afterwards, it still shocks me how a proposed candidate for the upcoming local elections can believe something that is of the same conspiratorial nature of flat Earthers. There’s a point where the amusement wears off and the seriousness of the situation arises.

Here we have somebody who wishes to run for public office, for a party which claims to put Irish sovereignty first, flat out denying simple historical facts that are also backed up in law. It is utterly baffling to see someone possibly take up public office while maintaining such ignorant views, although, having said that, a climate change denier currently occupies The White House, so maybe this is just the new normal. One only hopes that this serves as the final nail in the Rénua coffin. Their venture into Irish politics has failed spectacularly and proposing candidates in the vein of Howard Hughes amounts to a national embarrassment. Calling into question an undeniable historical and legal fact is not borderline insanity, it is insanity. Should voters in Lucan, in their ill-judgement, elect Howard Hughes at next month’s local elections, I hope he isn’t too shocked to find his fellow councillors won’t be pledging their allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, the British Crown or any other foreign power. Something tells me, however, that won’t even be enough to change his mind.